Well, it started cute. My 2nd grade class parented a guinea pig. It rustled around in its paper strips and wood chips during class. It called "Weet, weet, weet!" when all the kids trooped in. We took turns feeding it carrots and giving it love. I adored it. I happily swapped out the soiled bedding when it was my turn, and just as happily did the task for prissier classmates.
It was a wonderful, age-appropriate classroom experience... Until. Until the disaster. Someone left the bag of high protein pellets too close to the cage on a Friday and the guinea pig ate and ate and ate until it exploded. Thankfully, the teacher was the only one who actually saw our exploded pet and shushed us quickly out of the room until she had cleaned up whatever needs cleaned up from an exploded guinea pig. We weren't allowed to have any more pets in class after that, which I thought was quite a shame. I would've loved to have a class dog, or even a fish tank. We grew beans in Styrofoam cups instead, which you have to admit lacks the same kind of cuddling ops as a guinea pig.
Even with the disaster, I still think it was a good experience for our class. We learned about the consequences of shirking our responsibilities. We learned about death and shared our grief. We cemented our sense of empathy. We explored our sense of humor as a coping skill with many, many exploding jokes.
I look back at this and think to myself that it couldn't have been 2nd grade. I had Mrs. Brinnager back then, and she was a caricature of severity. She had a permanently clenched fist from some kind of medical issue, a red splotch in the middle of her lined forehead, and wild gray hairs haloing her face despite her strict bun. She was beyond firm in her rules, and quick to punish offenders. I'd watch her bony stride across the playground and think "Oh no!" even when I was completely innocent because she constantly looked angry.
Mrs. Brinnager looked like the Wicked Witch of the West, but she was kind to give us a guinea pig. She taught us things. She granted terse compliments when merited. By comparison, my evil 1st grade teacher looked like Glinda the Good Witch. The unintended lesson of don't judge a book by its cover was a life-long lesson -- though I was even happier with my 3rd grade teacher who was both attractive and nice.
It's strange to me that so many people don't remember their teachers. I think I remember them all, both good and bad. Some of them were extraordinary people, and some should never be allowed near children. And both good and bad, they impacted my life. It's hard to spend so much time with someone without feeling that impact even when we don't consciously remember them.